Washington Press Club Foundation
Ruth Ashton Taylor:
Interview #3 (pp. 64-102)
January 11, 1992 in Lincoln, California
Shirley Biagi, Interviewer

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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Biagi: We were at the end of the Maxwell House episode when we stopped before. What we want to do is move forward from your inability to meet Maxwell House's needs in time in Los Angeles and get started from there. What happened?

Taylor: I had been working on television at night on the ten o'clock news, which was the main news program on television, because television was so new.

Biagi: How long was it?

Taylor: Half hour, the whole program was. I did the women's angle. I think I probably explained that to me that meant whatever I wanted to do because I was a woman, was a woman's angle.

Biagi: You didn't see it as any kind of puffery or anything like that.

Taylor: No, I didn't see it as something in fashions and didn't do any cooking and fashions. Through the years I've done fashions of men more than I've done of women, things I could kind of make tongue-in-cheek fun with, you know. But, no, I did stories of all kinds and it was brand new. There was very loose management because it was such a new industry, television and television news, that the news head for television was the same fellow who was the head of news for radio for CBS in Los Angeles.

Biagi: That was who?

Taylor: His name was Jack Beck. He was the one who had called me up and had asked me if I wanted to be on this program. So I was on the program. In the last episode we did discuss the fact that the other managers in radio said, "Hey, they've got a woman doing news on television. Let's audition for a woman doing news on radio." So they held auditions and I participated and auditioned, and I won the audition, which meant that I was then going to be doing news on radio as well as news on television. There were two women's news shows now, or news spots, and I was doing both of them. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Actually you did television before you did radio on the air.

Taylor: Right.

Biagi: I didn't realize that.

Taylor: I was in radio as a producer and as a writer and all those things prior, but in terms of actually going on and performing, I did not do any on-the-air things on radio before, and I started my on-the-air appearances with television, which went very well. It was such a novel

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thing that everybody thought it was a real oddity. "Hey, look at the monkey perform! We've never seen one like this before."

Biagi: What years are we talking about?

Taylor: We're talking 1951. I started in October 1951 on Channel 2 News, which was not KNXT; it was KTSL, I think. It became KNXT shortly after that. We did our news program from a stage, which is great because there are footlights. We had footlights and overhead lights, and believe me, if you're a woman, I don't care what age you are, it's fine having all those lights.

Biagi: Where was the stage?

Taylor: It was a stage in a building at 1313 North Vine Street, which had been used for entertainment studios. It was being used by another radio outfit, KHJ, at the time. It's just where KTSL, KNXT sort of lived. I don't know any of the background on how they happened to be there, but that's where we were. We had a fair amount of room. There were five of us on the news program at ten o'clock. We had hard news, then we had local news, and we had sports news and we had my news and then to start with, we had the analyst. Then he turned into a weatherman.

We didn't have tape. Well, we didn't have film. We didn't have visuals that were any of the things that are on now. Whatever visuals we had, we brought in. So you'd do an interview, you could bring a person in. I don't know whether I related the story of when I did a story of an air show that was going on, and the people who were promoting the air show gave me a lot of little model airplanes. I suppose it was one of the kookiest slapstick stories that was ever on the air, because I had all these little airplanes all around me, and I'm talking about, "There are going to be the P-38s and the DC-3s and the everythings," and I had so many airplanes, I didn't know which was which. It was a complete mess. [Laughter.]

Biagi: But you were even in charge of your own visuals.

Taylor: We were in charge of our own visuals. I frequently had interviews, and that made a little sense. Then I did a thing one time about antique cars. We had a parking lot, anyway, at this place, at 1313 Vine, so I was able to demonstrate an antique car out in the parking lot. Of course, they come to me and make a little funny, "Well, where is Ruth? Ruth isn't here. She's out in the parking lot with an antique car and an antique man." I did that story.

It was a funny time because you could do anything, and people ate it up. It was a very popular program.

Biagi: Was this all done live or was it on film?

Taylor: All live. All live. That was it. That was the trick. [Laughter.] So that there you were. I don't know if I also told you the story about one night we came in and we had an assortment of directors who had different ideas about how to give it a little spice or life, and we would try to make it look like a newsroom. They'd have phones ringing while you're talking. Crazy things. But one night we came in and this one director said, "I think we should somehow illustrate that it's raining cats and dogs out there right now. This is going to be a part of the weather, will be a big story." So Tom Harmon was the sports guy and I. They decided they would have Tom and me walk in with an umbrella over our heads, and as we came in, they would throw a bucket of water

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on us, which they did, on the umbrella, and then we come dripping in. That was visual. It showed you there was a storm outside. There was a storm inside. [Laughter.]

Biagi: How did your hair fare on that? [Laughter.]

Taylor: My hair was always a problem. I would go home after doing radio, because after a while it became that I was doing radio in the day and television at night, and also trying to raise a young daughter and I had a husband. I'd go home to get my daughter ready for bed and get dinner. I always put my hair up. One night we had to go to some kind of a function, so I did put my hair up, and I put it up wet. I don't remember if we had big dryers. I don't know what I did to get it dry, but it always dried. Most of the time it dried. But this particular night we had to go to this function, so it wasn't dry when I took it down, and I showed up on the set with my hair just limp and falling down. I don't know how it looked. Happily, we don't see ourselves. But I went onto the set and I'm sitting there, and finally here comes the director out and he looks at me real hard and says, "You do look like that." [Laughter.] He thought there was something wrong with the camera.

It was a funny time. It was fun to do, and we took our work very seriously. There were a lot of things happening in Los Angeles at the time.

Biagi: What were some of the most exciting things maybe in that first early era that you remember about Los Angeles?

Taylor: One of the things that was happening, we had a lot of corruption in the city hall and there was a new police chief who came in, who was William Parker, Bill Parker, who became a legend, actually, and was in for many, many years. He was a real change. There was that.

There were big things going on in technology. Shortly after we started, we were hooked up by microwave to the East Coast. In fact, I believe that the World Series that year, in '51, was the first coast-to-coast broadcast or was the first event broadcast coast to coast. Because I remember I did a great trick then, too. I tried to explain the microwave setups and the relays from coast to coast. I can kind of just remember I had a whole bunch of little pictures of little relays, and I guess I explained it. I don't remember. I surely couldn't explain it today.

But there were all these things, a lot of things happening, a lot of politics, and I'd done a lot of politics when I was with CBS in New York, so it was interesting to me. [Dwight D.] Eisenhower was going to be running in the fifties. In '48, for instance, there was this great big push for Eisenhower to get into the process. So now he was running. I don't remember what we did in politics until the conventions the following year, which became something else. For the conventions the following year, they brought me back because after this little scene where I had said I wasn't going to be working at night anymore, I stuck to radio.

Biagi: So you reverted to radio in about late '51?

Taylor: No, '52. But the conventions in '52 brought me back. Whenever there were special events, I came back.

Biagi: Back to TV.

Taylor: Back to TV. I did the Rose Parade in '52 for TV.

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Biagi: Reporting on it live on TV?

Taylor: That's the one where I almost got stepped on by Roy Rogers' horse.

Biagi: You didn't tell me that!

Taylor: I didn't tell you about that?

Biagi: This is important to know.

Taylor: Well, it's very important because it set the tone for the coverage of the Rose Parade for years to come. Nobody could ever get down on the street again.

Biagi: Is that right? I didn't know this. This is a story I haven't heard.

Taylor: It was kind of interesting. I was covering for Channel 2 and there were two other people covering, two men. It's always cold in Pasadena in the morning. It looks beautiful in the later day, as everybody always sees and comes out here after New Year's, because California is such a wonderful place, but it's always cold in the morning. These guys were up on top in a nice studio arrangement on top of the Elks Club, which is the location we had for our cameras and our broadcast. "But Ruth, we want you on the street. Here's a microphone. Now you run around and you interview people on the floats and things like that," which means you're down there and you're shivering and you've got to get in everybody's way and they hate you and all these things.

Anyway, I was covering the floats and talking to people, idiotic questions. "How does it feel being frozen in the morning?" All kinds of stuff. But along comes Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and one of the guys up on the roof said, "Ruth, if you don't get an interview with Dale Evans, I'll never speak to you again."

So I said, "I'm not going to get an interview with Dale Evans; I'll get an interview with Roy." But I'm a city girl. I don't know about horses much. I go out, and Roy and Trigger are looking across the street the opposite way, so I'm approaching Roy and Trigger from the rear. I say, "Roy!" And Trigger brought his legs up and whirled around right over my head, and our A.D., the associate with me, pulled me out of the way as Trigger's hooves came down. I think Roy said some things that hopefully weren't caught on the microphone too clearly. The guys upstairs said, "Ruth, some day we'll show you a playback of that when you're strong." [Laughter.] But it was a pretty dramatic moment, and ever after they didn't let reporters on the parade route to go out on the street.

Biagi: I see. But did you get your interview?

Taylor: No. [Laughter.] I got a word from him, but it wasn't a word that anybody could use very well. Years later it was very funny, because I was at a political function, a dinner, and I was sitting there, and some woman across the room kept staring at me. I thought, "Well, she's seen me on television or something," and I didn't pay much attention. Then later I saw her in a reception for whoever the candidate was, upstairs in this hotel, and she came over and said, "Aren't you the woman on television who almost got stepped on by Roy Rogers' horse?" And that was several years later. I thought, "This is going to be the way I'm remembered. I've done something now that will go down in television history." Anyway, that's the kind of stuff I did. [Laughter.]

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Then I did go back for covering the conventions. They were in Chicago, but I was covering them from Los Angeles. The thing was that at that point we had the microwave hookups, and I don't remember exactly all of these things, but each network had to hire up cable or microwave or what, something in order to go transcontinental. There was a pool feed that took the conventions across the country, but for the networks themselves to have their own individual input, they would have to share the microwaves and the cables, whatever the hookups were at that point, and that meant that, say, CBS would be on for limited time. In between, NBC would be on, ABC would be on. So my job was to fill in all the holes while the other networks had the air time. It was unbelievable. It couldn't happen now. You stayed with all the wires and you listened to everything that was on the broadcasts of the conventions and so on.

I was scheduled to do a broadcast in the morning from like 6:45 to 7:00 our time, and then our network people would come up. The convention then would go on around nine o'clock or something like that. The trouble is, there would be something wrong with the cable or the microwave or whatever the hookup, or somebody else would have it or something, and I'd be on there and I'd get a little sign, "Hold the air until 7:15." Okay. So you're going to talk about some more of these people that you had talked to. You didn't have visuals.

Biagi: This was all studio?

Taylor: This was all in the studio. Then I remember the most distressing day of all. Now, maybe there would be another one of us in there and we'd bat it back and forth or something. I can't remember if we had still pictures or what we could show in between, but I remember one morning, "Hold it till 7:15, hold it till 7:30." Then I got a sign that said, "Hold till 9:00." [Laughter.]

Biagi: Oh, my goodness!

Taylor: I never forgot, because those were the early days of television.

Biagi: So that's an hour and a half of live shot with nothing to say. [Laughter.]

Taylor: Well, you're going over what they've done, you are talking, and you always would be talking to other people, getting sidebars. This would all have to be obviously ad lib, though. Of course, the idea was of holding the air for our place, that you were going to keep the people interested in the convention. I think they probably tuned out way before our network ever came on. But that was the idea. It was good exercise in broadcast journalism, because you had to just talk, talk, talk, talk. I guess maybe that's where I got started and never shut up. [Laughter.]

Biagi: You're the only woman in the market at that point, aren't you?

Taylor: Right.

Biagi: Until what year, say?

Taylor: I was the only woman around until the sixties in Los Angeles.

Biagi: In broadcasting.

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Taylor: In broadcasting. Well, I'll take that back, because there was a woman. We were doing six days a week on television, and I said I only wanted to do five, because we did Sunday through Friday. So for Sundays they hired a woman to take my place.

Biagi: At Channel 2?

Taylor: At Channel 2. She was a print journalist.

Biagi: What was her name?

Taylor: I can't remember her name. She didn't do any more after that. Then also along came a woman who took my place on—I don't know whether she took it on radio or television—Mildred Younger, Evelle Younger's wife. Mildred was a political figure and a very bright lady and very good. She did go over and she did some broadcasting at ABC. That was short-lived.

There was also another, an assistant to Chet Huntley, who broadcast a little while on ABC, I think, the news. But they didn't sustain. Mildred became, and always was, politically very active and did politics. She was good on the air. In fact, Mildred worked with my husband, who was news director of ABC. But they didn't stay around.

It was interesting. Among my souvenirs I have a Golden Mike from 1954, Best Women's News Broadcast. The only weird thing about that is that it was the only women's newscast! [Laughter.]

Biagi: Really well deserved. [Laughter.]

Taylor: So I have never mentioned that. If you see my bios, they always say, "She was the first woman to ever receive the Golden Mike." Well, right. But I had absolutely no competition and it was not that hard.

Biagi: Of course, you received the award with great graciousness, I'm sure, when it was given to you in 1954.

Taylor: I remember. In fact, it was for 1954. It was given to me in 1955. When I received it, I said, "This is the nicest thing that's happened to me since January twenty-seventh," because my second baby was born on January twenty-seventh. I was kind of ambivalent about where I put my feelings and thoughts.

Biagi: Sure.

Taylor: But I was at that point doing radio. I'd made the full switch.

Biagi: In 1952 you had made the full switch, and you were in radio full time?

Taylor: On the network. I think I did cover a little of this last time, that it took me several times a day sometimes to do enough on the—

Biagi: Because of the relay.

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Taylor: Because they would want forty-seven stations. Hills Brothers coffee, that became my sponsor. They wanted forty-seven stations. In order to get to all forty-seven, they would have to be done at different times because they couldn't clear all those stations.

Biagi: That's right. We did talk about that.

Taylor: I did the same thing subsequently. Oh, I was so big with coffee, because then after Hills Brothers—that was a long run, three years—then Folger's picked up my show and it was a longer show. I only did five minutes a day for Hills Brothers, but on forty-seven stations, so I did it two or three times. That's when I was studying piano, remember? We did talk about that. Then I did Folger's for ten minutes, a ten-minute show. They were called alternately "The Ruth Ashton Show" and "The Women's News Desk." I don't know which was first.

Then when it became too difficult to get the network to clear, somebody would come along and want you in all these different stations, but the stations in the mid-fifties began to feel that they wanted to do their own broadcasting. That's when the networks started to get into trouble, radio networks, in terms of putting on network programs, at least for the West Coast, because the local stations could make more money with local sponsors for their own programs. So by '56, late, or '57, I went local. That became hard work because I'd have to do a half-hour show locally and make less money than for five or ten minutes. It was hard. It was a lot of work.

Biagi: You talked about your second daughter being born. After that happened, were you having second thoughts about whether you were going to continue working or you were going to stay home?

Taylor: No. I had some problems in my marriage and it was breaking up, very frankly. There was no question. In fact, there was no question when I was working all the time that I had to work, because things were not well and we were not going to be able to keep this going.

Biagi: What was your husband doing at this point?

Taylor: My husband was Edwin W. Conklin, and he was a news editor when I first met him. When we were first married, he was a news editor with radio in Los Angeles, the CBS station, KNX, and then he went to ABC as an assistant news director. Then he became news director in about 1954, I think it was.

Biagi: Radio?

Taylor: Radio. He did do some television over there, too. They were just starting some television, too, on Channel 7 at that point. It wasn't much; it was real primitive. We were pretty ahead in getting going at the CBS station on television news, so we had a good head start on people as far as audience is concerned. But he was with ABC.

Biagi: So you both had fairly demanding jobs.

Taylor: We had very demanding jobs and there were some basic major problems. My husband, actually, was an alcoholic and it was impossible. It was a very difficult marriage and it wasn't going to last, so there was no question that I had to keep working. That was it. In fact, if I'd only just had great times with my personal life, I wouldn't have probably done any of these things. Not so.

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Biagi: What do you mean, there was no question you had to keep working? Why did you think you had to keep working?

Taylor: I didn't think the marriage was going to last. I didn't think he was going to take care of us. We had two daughters. My husband wanted to be responsible. He was an excellent newsman, very bright person, very gifted and talented. He had a problem that these days would have been seen as a problem that he could get some help for. In that time—and I think anybody who is anywhere in my range of age would understand—that was a time when it was viewed as just a weakness if somebody were an alcoholic, and it was thought that that person could shape up or ship out. Whatever the sympathies were, whatever the affection was, it was an impossible kind of way of life. I worried all the time if I would leave the kids with him, as I would have to do sometimes. It was just a tragedy, really.

Biagi: Did you have a housekeeper or someone to watch the children?

Taylor: I had a housekeeper. There was a period of time when I was first working, when it was one person to another, and I had a nursery school for my first daughter. It was very difficult. Then I did have a woman. From time to time I had people who were very good, but then there would be something happen and they would move or something. I did find a woman, finally, who was splendid. She was wonderful. She was at my house and she took care of the house, she took care of the kids. Everything was fine. In fact, she came down and testified when I got my divorce. [Laughter.] But then she was broken up from her husband and her husband came back, and they went back together and ruined my life. [Laughter.]

Biagi: The nerve!

Taylor: My mother came. I moved. I had saved up and wanted to move from where we were and did manage, because I had saved up enough money to move.

Biagi: Where were you living before you moved?

Taylor: We lived in Panorama City, which was one of the things that we wish there were now, which was a housing tract that was so priced that people who had been in World War II could use their G.I. Bill and could afford to go in. It was low down payment and reasonable, brand-new houses. It was a splendid area. We had a good time with all the young people who were there. But then it was pretty far away and I wanted to change things for a lot of reasons, and found a house in the Hollywood hills in Studio City, which wasn't far from Hollywood. I had enough money to buy it.

There was a complication that you couldn't buy a house at that point as a woman. You couldn't get a loan as a woman. My husband came back, as a matter of fact, and went in with me to get the loan, though I paid for everything. But he moved back in for a while, which was another difficult time, but eventually that got severed. That was a period when you got an interlocutory decree, which would mean that you would go get a divorce and make all of the arrangements and property settlements and all that, but then you didn't get a final divorce for a year. You had a year to do something about it. Well, he came back and was there, and it wasn't for three or four years that we got the final decree.

Biagi: I see. That divorce was final when?

Taylor: 1960.

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Biagi: You started it all in '56, '57?

Taylor: Yes. So that was what was going on, but it was very difficult times financially, though my husband, again, tried to be—and he was—very responsible, in his mind, when he could be. He paid a certain amount of child support, not a lot. There was no alimony or anything like that. It wasn't enough, even beginning to be enough to live on. Also the fact that I had to have somebody take care of the kids, all those things you have to do when you're a working mother.

So I kept working and worked, doing the half-hour program, until '58, I guess it was. In '58 they changed the formats. Furthermore, I had a big blow-up. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Did you quit?

Taylor: Yes.

Biagi: When was the first time you quit, Ruth? I want to know. You say you quit all the time.

Taylor: I didn't quit all the time then. I guess I had quit once or twice. I don't remember. I quit when I quit on television. I did. After that, it was pretty serene because I was pretty much my own boss. Nobody ever told me what to do. I liked it that way. I had to work real hard.

Biagi: Was it a half-hour program?

Taylor: Half-hour program. I had a producer who helped me, to some extent, to get on and get off on time, but I went out and did the taping and the stories that I wanted to tape, and I planned the format. We did a lot of interesting things. It was a period of time when the space program—it wasn't the space program, it was the Soviets that went soaring up with Sputnik, you know, in 1957, and started a whole lot of stories. I became very involved with covering space stories and was at the JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a great deal, which was the high tech part of Cal Tech. It was an adjunct to Cal Tech, where they actually had the scientists work with NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] and so on. I don't know that it was called NASA then. Anyway, JPL was highly involved in the space pioneering. Of course, JPL eventually put up the unmanned space probes to the moon and all of that.

Biagi: What was the format of your half hour?

Taylor: The format was simply that I would introduce it with some news, regular news, and then I would go on to feature stories or interviews on top news stories. I would do interviews. I did a lot of taping. I'd go out, for instance. I remember one night I went out because Rocketdyne, North American's Rocketdyne division used to test engines for spacecraft out in the Santa Susana Mountains. Of course, you could hear that all over the San Fernando Valley, the big thing, the Atlas machines going, these great big rocket engines that were used in our early pioneering efforts. They were being tested out there in Santa Susana, so I decided to go out, and they let me. At that point I was accompanied by an engineer. I'd go out with a tape recorder.

Biagi: Is it the reel to reel?

Taylor: It was pretty big. Yes, a pretty big little machine. We started with acetate, let's face it, way back. But we went out to Santa Susana and they were testing—I think it was an engine for a Redstone rocket, a big engine, anyway, one of the big ones. So you could hear it, as I say, all over the San Fernando Valley. You can imagine. Here you are, you're across the canyon,

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maybe 100, 200 yards. Anyway, you're there where it is across the way, and that thing went off and I tried to run, because the shock is such. But you can't run. You're safe where you are. They've got you in a safe place. But I looked at the tape, and the tape spools jumped right off the machine. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Oh, no! So much for that idea. [Laughter.]

Taylor: I think we got maybe roughly fifteen seconds on tape. But it was an interesting, fascinating time. So there were a lot of good interviews.

Biagi: Did you feel compelled at all to do personality pieces, Hollywood pieces? Did they look to you to do those?

Taylor: No. I did a certain number of Hollywood stories when Hollywood personalities would be involved in important news events. I didn't do entertainment like the movies much then. I didn't do much in the cultural area until much later in television. I was doing pretty hard stuff. I remember one of the things I would do on a global scale, I remember doing interviews with Sol Hurok, for instance, when he was taking different acts and performers into the Soviet Union, and also there was a lot going on in relation to Israel. I did a lot of interviews with people around Los Angeles on what they were doing to help Israel. We did quite a bit on politics.

Where it came to entertainment, I did do some things. I remember doing an interview with one of the ballerinas who was an internationally famous ballerina. I can't remember which one it was. I just remember that she told me something. I interviewed her in a hotel room and I always admired her. Gosh, I can't remember her name, but I remember her saying it was hard being a ballerina and traveling so much because she had a daughter and she was always feeling that she wasn't able to do what she needed to do. I remember she said, "You want to just like take off your experience and put it on your daughter like a dress." I remember her saying that, because I thought of it afterwards, that you would like to be able to give your kids the benefit of the experience you've had, take it off and put it on her. I remember her saying that.

I remember doing stories like the grandmothers' convention. Things like this pop out in your mind. I went down. There was a grandmothers' convention at the Ambassador Hotel. I remember that. They were seventies, eighties, these ladies. One lady said to me, "You know, Cupid is flying around our convention!" There was some little eighty-three-year-old grandmother who had seen some lovely guy. I always remembered that because of that line, "I think Cupid is flying around our convention!"

It's hard to remember specifics because if you've been in this business so long, you've done so many thousands of stories. But I remember some of these, they just pop out that you remember.

Biagi: What about the issue of transportation, the freeways, or city planning?

Taylor: We did a lot on city planning, and I don't remember exactly when all that came about. I did fires, too. I've always done fires and floods. We had a lot of floods. It used to be if it rained in Los Angeles, the whole place broke down because they didn't have a good flood control system, and therefore you could have an inch and a half rain and schools would be closed. I mean, things like that. There were a lot of problems.

Biagi: It is in a basin, really, when you think about it.

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Taylor: Right. And smog was a problem, to some extent.

Biagi: When Disneyland opened, did that change anything down there?

Taylor: Disneyland opened in 1955, I guess it was. Sure, that was a big story. This was in the sixties when I did some things with Walt Disney. No, I did an interview with Walt Disney when my daughter was only three or four, and that had to be early because she wasn't very old. Maybe she was five. I don't know. I did an interview with Walt Disney, went out to his place at Disney Studios. I wanted to take my daughter because I thought this was a great opportunity for her to see Disney, too, and his aides were saying, "I don't know if he's going to like this little child in there when you're doing your interview." Well, Disney thought it was great. We went in there and he took her up on his lap and talked to her, took her around, showed her everything there was. He loved her! It was a fine interview. I remember it was a charming time when I talked with him.

Also then when we went over, they used to have a lot of great press parties around that time, early in the Disneyland history, and I remember when they opened up the tiki room, which was when he began to have—I forget the term he used for it, but they were able to do this animation of all the little birds around and everything. He took my family and me down to the control area which was like a Polaris submarine, he said. He was a really regular guy, and I got along with him fine. When he saw us, he always was very gracious. He was always out at his place, too. He also told us about how he happened to do that. He talked about when he and his wife were raising their kids and they would go to one of these amusement parks. They were always kind of dirty and there was no place for the family. He wanted to have a place where everybody could have a good time and it was clean and you felt like you were part of the whole thing, even if you were a mother and dad. So that's part of what stimulated him with Disneyland. I did a lot of things with him.

Everything was pioneering at that time because you hadn't been out, for one thing. You now had tape recorders that you were going out with, that you hadn't been going out with in decades prior. We had television, obviously, that was doing many things, but on radio you had complete freedom. You could run around. You didn't have to have all the time it took to get cameras and so on.

Biagi: What was the process? Say you went out to do a story. Would it be a reel-to-reel, a small one, about a foot wide, would you say, in size?

Taylor: Yes. I guess so.

Biagi: What would be the process? Say you had to do a story based on tape. How would you go about doing it? How would you organize it to get it on the air?

Taylor: In the fifties we had, as I say, engineers in the way the contracts ran, and they were more complicated machines. We took an engineer with us. We had an editor back at the station, and I would just come back with my tape and we'd edit it like you edit any kind of tape.

Biagi: Would you listen to it and then write?

Taylor: Very often I would do pieces. You had to string them together. You'd have four or five different tapes in your broadcast and you wouldn't spend a lot of time. Most of the time on each individual piece I would do a lot of things in the field, narrate it or take a clip out of it,

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the narrative describing it and then the interview with the fire chief or whatever, because you had limited time. You were doing one half hour every day. I would use probably four to six, seven different taped stories in my show.

Biagi: So the program was on at what time?

Taylor: That was on in the middle of the afternoon. I can't remember exactly. It might have even been late afternoon. I can't remember exactly.

Biagi: When it wasn't on, in other words, you were going out there doing stories to get ready for the next one.

Taylor: Yes. Then I would also set up some interviews and things for the following day when I'd be through.

Biagi: Did you have a producer who did that?

Taylor: I had a producer who helped me, but the trouble was he was not a newsperson; he was an entertainment producer. Though he was very helpful, he didn't know how to call a story. So much of it was on my shoulders, and that was one of the reasons I complained. I had written a really harsh memo to the boss, the general manager, about not having enough help and going crazy with this business. He said someday if he wanted to write a memo, he'd call me in because he'd like to get a little memo training from me. [Laughter.]

But the hard work wasn't what finally drove me batty. As happens a lot, the sales department and the entertainment department start coming into the newsroom. In the early days, it was such a problem. First news was thought to be, "Oh, well, it's a lost thing that's never going to make any money." Well, news showed that this is what people wanted to hear, and this went on through the forties and the fifties and it was very clear it was making money. People did want to hear news. They liked the news and it was profitable. And now your hierarchy in your stations and your companies would say, "Hey, that news is making money and it's got a lot of people listening to it. We'd better become part of that little game, because it is broadcasting and anything that's happening on our air, we've got to be part of."

The job, as it was put by my husband, who was a news director and also by the news director at KNX and by others, was that the big job of the news director was to stand in the door of the newsroom and say, "Keep out." [Laughter.]

Biagi: To the advertisers?

Taylor: To the promotion department, the entertainment department, the general manager, New York, or whoever wanted to interfere in the product you were turning out that was the news, because, as I say, they paid no attention so long as they thought you were not going to be any big deal and they were just being nice to let you operate. When the news became a big deal, they all wanted part of the action.

Biagi: Let's take a break.

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[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]

Biagi: Since you say that they had such an impression or such an influence, advertisers tried to have such an influence on the news, was there an example you can remember?

Taylor: The examples would be that I was doing stories within my half-hour program on tape. I was going out. They'd say, "Well, Ruth, Robinson's is opening a store in Pasadena. Why don't you go out and just do a little story about Pasadena and the Robinson's opening." Well, you're now talking about promotion. You are talking about sales. You're not talking about something I would naturally choose to do. But I'd do it a couple of times.

I remember Robinson's as an example because it was the one that I really had the blow-up on. Then they said, "Robinson's is opening a store in Palm Springs, Ruth. Why don't you go out there and do a little story about the opening in Palm Springs. Palm Springs is growing," and all this. So, "Okay," I say, "I'll go out there, but I want to do a story then about Palm Springs. I'll include Robinson's in it, but I'll do a story about how Palm Springs is growing, how land is selling, how people are building houses and moving out here, all this sort of stuff." So I did that, and I included the Robinson's opening.

Well, in one of these stories, either the Pasadena opening or the Palm Springs opening, I came back, and one of my colleagues in the newsroom said, "Well, that was an interesting half-hour ad," or something like that, that sent me through the roof. I knew it was. I knew I didn't want to do it. When I did it, I did it trying to make a story out of it so that it wouldn't be so blatantly promotion for somebody who was an advertiser.

But at that point, because my skin was pretty thin on that anyway, I went to a friend of mine who was head of sales, whom I had known for years, whom my family had known, and I sat down and talked to him about how, "I don't want to do this. I don't like this. I'm really unhappy about this being thrust at me so much." So I'm in this sales manager's office when the general manager goes by, and he said, "So what are you talking about, Ruth?"

I said, "I'm unhappy," and I told him what I was unhappy about.

He said, "You could have come to me and talked about it. You didn't have to go to the sales manager." I remember this, that he didn't like it that I had gone to the sales manager.

I said, "Well, it's gone too far. I don't want to do it anymore. I quit."

He said, "Okay." [Laughter.] That was the time I got caught. I had done it a lot of times.

Biagi: 1960, was this?

Taylor: No, this was '58 or '59. I forget which time it was. It was interesting because subsequently he hired me back for everything. He wanted me to come back and do the "Storyline" program, and eventually I did do, but he became a real good friend. When I had my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he was down there last year. His name is Bob Sutton. He was very important in the fifties and sixties at KNX in Los Angeles.

Biagi: So he accepted your resignation?

Taylor: He accepted my resignation. It wasn't that hard for him to do because they were planning, and did then, change the format a whole lot. I don't remember, because I got involved in many other things, all the things they did. I didn't choose to listen to them after that.

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But that was a time right at the end of the fifties where radio was playing around with a lot of format changes and they changed the format a lot. That was an interesting time and it was a time, too, where I was then cast out to do a lot of extra stuff freelance. I did some freelance writing for CBS.

Biagi: So you did quit. Essentially you were off work.

Taylor: I quit, but they asked me to come do some freelance writing for CBS, but when I did the writing for CBS over at TV City, they put me on the CBS payroll. So my time on the CBS payroll really kind of continued. It just kind of flopped around. [Laughter.]

I did take a hiatus when I was being asked to do two shows. There were two shows. Sutton wanted me to come back and work with Ralph Story on this program that he was doing, a "Storyline" program, a long show, and that was around 1960. Also in television they were talking about maybe having me come back and work with Bill Keene, who was a weatherman. He was going to do an hour show at noon. They were talking about that. Meantime, Scripps College and the Claremont colleges were talking to me about going out there to maybe do some television, get them on television and do publications to project Claremont colleges as the Oxford of the West. Those three things were sitting there for me to do something about. I thought I would like to go into some more depth, because this broadcast business was pretty superficial. "I'll go out and try the colleges for a while." I did.

Biagi: What year was that?

Taylor: That was 1960, late '60. I worked out there for almost a year and a half, and I did a movie we produced. We worked with all the independent colleges at that point. I was the representative of the Claremont colleges and I worked with all the colleges on developing a television show that was on every week and getting a producer for that. Also I produced a couple of publications which I actually wrote mostly all myself. I hadn't been in print, you know. I had gone to a school of journalism and had worked in the print side just going to school, but I had always been in broadcasting. So it was kind of fun to do print and turn out some of these. I don't know what we called them, but they were newspapers that talked about what was going on in the Claremont colleges.

Biagi: Like a tabloid, was it?

Taylor: Yes.

Biagi: Did you move out there or did you stay where you were?

Taylor: No, I commuted every day from Studio City, which was a long commute. It was like about ninety miles round trip. Now, I can make ninety miles around Sacramento, going one way, in fifty minutes I can get to the capital and park. Even then in Southern California it took a lot longer because the freeways were not the same as things are here. They were too crowded.

Biagi: You were probably going when everybody else was? Your work day was the same time?

Taylor: Actually, my work day was kind of what I wanted to make it. I didn't work every day. Sometimes I'd only work three days a week. I got paid a flat sum. I don't remember what it was. Enough. I just had to get my work done. I didn't have to work all the time, and sometimes we would have people that I would put on radio or television and I would stay in town and get them

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and things like that. All the colleges worked together in starting the public broadcasting station KCET down there. We started it from a gleam in the eye of one of the PR people at Cal Tech, I think. So when I was back on radio doing talk shows, I did lots and lots of interviews with the KCET people as it was emerging and growing and becoming an important public television station. It started with being at Claremont.

It was an interesting time, but I must say that here I thought I was going to get into more depth and thinking, and I did in a lot of ways. There were things that were extremely important, but also I found so much provincialism in the colleges and many more closed minds than I cared to think about. I remember one time I had this one professor who was a professor of European history and taught German, I think, and he was a German. I had him on to talk about something that was going on in Berlin on a television and radio program I had him booked for. The day before he was to do that, something happened. Somebody in the State Department had done something that changed the picture, so I told him about it. He said, "Oh, don't disturb my theories with the facts," or something like that, which to me was eloquent because it was what I ran into all the time. It got so that when I would get back on the freeway to go home at night, I would be so happy to be back in the real world and realize that I'm not an academic person. [Laughter.] So I did have that experience, but it wasn't really for me.

Biagi: Your daughters were what ages at this point?

Taylor: One was born in '50 and one was born in '55.

Biagi: One was ten and one was five.

Taylor: Right. My mother was staying with me. My mother had lived in Long Beach and had always worked. She got to a point where she could come up, and I actually paid her to take care of my kids.

Biagi: She closed the restaurant?

Taylor: She closed that in the forties, her own little restaurant, but then she went to New York when I was in New York for a while. She came back out and she worked at a little bakery and she had another little restaurant. She always had some little thing going on in Long Beach. But at the end of the fifties and early sixties, she got to a point where she was happy to just come up and take care of my kids, and I would pay her so that she had something to live on. Mother, though, for a long time lived in a little apartment of her own not too far from where we were. She was a very independent lady. But she always had to go down on the weekends and get her hair fixed and her teeth fixed and everything had to get fixed in Long Beach. She couldn't fix it up at our place, so Mom stayed with us up to close to the time she died in '66.

Biagi: She would live with you during the week and on the weekends—

Taylor: First of all, she had her little apartment to start with and she would go down to Long Beach. But then she got so she lived with us. I did some remodeling and got a place that was more comfortable for her, and then she lived with us and she'd go down on the weekends and have her time in Long Beach. She stayed there, and this was great.

I remember one time when she was there, there was a big fire in Laurel Canyon. We lived right by Laurel Canyon. Mother called up and I was broadcasting. Now we're skipping a little time and I'm back in broadcasting now. We were broadcasting all afternoon and I got a call about

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two o'clock from my mother. Not wanting to be bothered because I had a lot to do, I said, "I don't know if I can talk to her." They said, "She just wants to know. She says there's a fire out there and it's coming over the hill. What should she take?" [Laughter.] So at that point I decided I'd better pay attention to Mom. It was one of the big Laurel Canyon fires and it got up to where you could see it over the hill, but it didn't come over to our side. We were on the valley side. Then I talked to her and the kids were safe, they were someplace else. It must have been in the summertime. That makes sense because one was at a movie. Anyway, everybody was okay, but Mom didn't know what to take.

It was an interesting thing because when I tried to tell her what to take, I just told her to take herself. "Go get safe." I've always thought of that. If you've got a fire and somebody says, "What will I take?" unless you've thought it out and you've got a couple of bins there with handles on that you can pick up and take, how many of us are prepared to know what to take? What do you take if all of a sudden you've got a crisis?

Biagi: Let me ask you hypothetically. If there were a fire in this house, what would you take? What's the most important thing you've got that you'd take with you?

Taylor: The dog and probably my purse.

Biagi: Because it has everything in it.

Taylor: If I could get my purse with me. That's if it were no time at all.

Biagi: You've got all these awards sitting here.

Taylor: Oh, heck, you know. They probably wouldn't burn anyway. [Laughter.] They're sitting there. That's nice decoration. Most of the things that you have that are that kind of thing, you remember, they're in your memory. And what the heck does anybody else really care? I mean, there's not anybody. You can show them and you can tell them, and I don't know of anybody who really gives a damn about whether you have a lot of awards or not.

Biagi: You wouldn't take the awards?

Taylor: Heck, no! Maybe try to find an insurance policy or a phone book. My little phone books, you know.

Biagi: Be real practical.

Taylor: I'd want a sweater. [Laughter.]

Biagi: A dog and a sweater.

Taylor: Yes. But in terms of your people and your creatures and hopefully you'd have enough that you could get out and live the next day. No, I don't have a lot of things that are all—I like places, I like my home, I like the view, things like that, but things just for themselves mean very little to me.

Biagi: Why do you think that is?

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Taylor: I think it's because I've lived this long and a lot of things that I may have liked I no longer have. I've had some pieces of jewelry, for instance, that I liked that were stolen. I've gotten along very well without them. I like clothes, but there are a lot of clothes out there, you know. A lot of people would love it if my closets would burn, because so many of them I've worn for so long. [Laughter.] I've got the clothes I had—I keep them for years.

Biagi: They come back. [Laughter.]

Taylor: They come back, and if you don't change your size very much, you can usually wear them. That might not be too bad to get rid of the whole thing. You furnish a place the way you like it, but in terms of real down deep, what means anything, my kids, my grandson, my dog. I just don't understand people who hook on to things, because I think it would be a miserable life. Like a car. I talk to people.

I got stuck one time, I remember. This is quite memorable because all of a sudden I was down in South Central Los Angeles doing a story, and the camera crew got called someplace else, so they just dropped me on something like Olympic Boulevard or someplace like that, and there was a car store, I call it, a dealer, of Porches and some of these real exotic sports cars. So I went in to call the office and ask them if they could eventually pick me up. But I was there quite a while and I was talking to the folks around there and the salesmen about some of these fancy cars. They were very expensive. I don't remember. At that point they were probably a third of what they are now. But they were talking about how these were like jewelry to a lot of people, and they gave me some stories about how men would buy them, and then when they would go to a restaurant or something they would have to sit by the window where they could watch their car, and about how sometimes these cars almost interfered with marriages. If you got a scratch on the car, it was like having somebody cut your ear off. It just seemed so ridiculous! And you pay all this money, now you can't have anything else, and you're going to worry about this car.

Biagi: I asked you that because you've lived in a town for a long time where things are very important to people and trappings, an industry where it seems trappings are very important, so it's fairly surprising.

Taylor: I like to look well. I like to dress well, so clothes are important, but, again, you can always get another dress, you're going to figure, somewhere. There are always some earrings around. I like my pearls. I have a strand of pearls, but I usually wear them. If I leave the house, I wear them. I wear them to go to the store because I've had so many pieces of jewelry stolen. I've got this one strand of pearls because I always wear them, and I think that's worked so far, I'll keep on wearing them. If anybody steals them, as long as they're on me, they're going to have to knock me over. But they can't see them. I wear them under sweaters, you know. Sometimes I wonder why I wear them because I never wear them so anybody can see them.

Biagi: Maybe you're a little attached to the pearls.

Taylor: I like my pearls. I like them, and I've had some wonderful pearls. I've always liked pearls. My family, my great-grandmother, everybody always liked pearls. I had a million pearls. There was one burglary we had where they just got swept out. I had, I think, one strand that I still have, and then my husband bought me another strand. Those are the pearls I have now.

Biagi: What about the issue of appearances, if we can digress for just a second, the issue of appearances in your profession? Appearance is very important.

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Taylor: It's very important.

Biagi: The role that that plays in your profession. Other journalists, print journalists certainly, even radio, don't feel that it's so important as broadcast people are rumored to feel it is.

Taylor: You have to know that I didn't really make it on my beauty. [Laughter.]

Biagi: A wonderful voice, Ruth. I'm sure that had something to do with it.

Taylor: I was good-looking enough when I was growing up along the way, and I've always liked to dress well. That's been a big part of it. I'm not a big lady and I'm fairly well coordinated. I danced a lot. So there is a whole person involved in how you look, and that's why I really prefer, in terms of how you look, being a reporter in the field, rather than just sitting on a set, because head and shoulders is not—I've never been a model, I've never been an actress, and I didn't ever want to be. And it's a good thing, because I never would have made it. [Laughter.] But as a whole person, I get put together fairly well.

But hair has been a big drag. My hair has always been a problem, and I get all kinds of people who comment about my hair. I've had more mail about my hair, probably, through the years than anything else that I've ever had any comment about.

Biagi: What do they say?

Taylor: It's always been stringy. My hair is very fine, so I can put it up and it can be gorgeous for two minutes, and then if I get out in the winds, and I'm always in the wind, or if I get out in the rain, I'm always in the rain, I have a rain hat that is practically a museum piece at this point, and I still have it. I have worn it for twenty years, and people kid me about my rain hat.

One story was written about me. It was a very nice story on the cover of a Sunday supplement, a couple of pages, and the title of it was, "Who Cares If Her Hair's a Mess?" I was going to frame it and give it to my hairdresser. But how you look is important, and you certainly have to look presentable. I think if I didn't care about my appearance I couldn't have done it. I had to care about my appearance. I have to care about makeup.

The hardest part is when you're younger. When I was younger, because I was the only one around, I was the best-looking woman around because I was the only woman around. But it got a lot harder when a lot of other people came in. It's interesting, because I had sort of made a reputation and people sort of knew what I did, and I have had a style that was there, and that's been the image. I never was put up there as a beauty, and I could have been a lot prettier than I was. I mean, you can make a lot of people, and a lot of people are made. You've got the hairdresser up there. You should see the place sometime when they're really working on one of their anchors. The hair's flying and all the hair spray and the makeup people are analyzing, and there's a color coordinator with the clothes, and you've got the lights just right. As they get a little older, it gets diffused. I just love it, the way they do some of the people these days. I look at Angela Lansbury, whom I love, and I wouldn't miss "Murder She Wrote," but when she does these commercials, they've got this diffusion that is beautiful. I just wish somebody would diffuse me like that.

If the people who are running places want you to be known for your attractiveness, they will see to it that you are attractive. You can be a pretty bad example of a hag and still, when they want to make you into something, they'll make you into something. There are an awful lot of

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women who are made into things, head and shoulders, who wouldn't be too good out there in the field because they may be pretty broad someplace or they don't have good figures or something like that. It's a game.

The biggest problem for me has been that I've been out there for a long time, so I am one of the first women to have the audacity to get older in front of the camera. It's hard. That's hard, because your competition—and it is competition, particularly the way they play it now—they're very attractive women, for the most part. They're not going to choose any who aren't, for reporters. You're pretty much as you are on the hoof, you know. They aren't doing what they do with anchors, which is to set you up there and create you. So as you get older, you're not going to have the same value to people in broadcasting. I haven't had.

Biagi: Do you think that's true?

Taylor: I think it's true. Let's face it. If I were a man, they wouldn't have suggested they could make a great deal with me in terms of a semi-retirement, which is what I did at the retirement age. We've got Mike Wallace, we've got Morley Safer. We've got a lot of people out there, men all over the place, Hugh Downs, a lot of people who are older men. You analyze the way they look. They have wrinkles and they're plainly out there. I looked at Dan Rather last night and I thought, for one thing, somebody is going to chew somebody out because the lighting was terrible. His circles showed. That wouldn't be tolerated in a woman, that the circles show. You're going to have to either back off, get out, do something. A woman is much more vulnerable to criticism on the basis of how she looks. We've got women coming now into their fifties. You've got only a scattering of women who are older as I am, such as Barbara Walters is, I think, in her sixties now. You can see and you know that Barbara is very carefully taken care of. You get all those things, the manicures, the rest treatments and the different things. You really take care of a woman who is considered a star in network television the way you take care of an athlete, a movie star, or anybody else. But now there are these women who are getting older. I think as more women get older, just like it came as a revelation when I went on the air and some of the other early women went on the air, it was found that a woman's voice could be tolerated, well, it can be tolerated that a woman gets older, if she knows what she's doing.

I still have good success. I don't have maybe as much in my mind as elsewhere. However, things would have been different if I were a man or a younger woman.

Biagi: What would have been different, do you think?

Taylor: There would have been a bigger effort on the part of people to keep me around longer on full time. I say that. On the other hand, there has been a great deal of effort to keep me around, which is nice and I appreciate it. So somehow I get by with being older, and I have been. I can't complain that much. I just know it's harder, and it's harder for women getting older no matter what they do. Let's face it. Men get older and they just get more mature and wiser. Women just get older. [Laughter.] It's true. I have heard congresswomen talk about it. A gal, I guess, used to be a congresswoman from New York, she'd say they can have these marathon sessions on the floor or something and they'll say, "Oh, George, he's looking a little tired. He's really working hard." Then, "Look at Katherine. She's falling apart." You know. It's a whole different way of looking at women and men, no matter where they are.

Biagi: Going back to 1960 now, here we are and you're thinking about going back to television again. Was it ever an issue in your early career that you were a woman and there are men out

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there and you have to compete with them for position? Or was it just, "We're hiring a woman to do a woman's angle"?

Taylor: In the fifties when I first went on television, I was obviously much, much younger in '51 and reasonably good-looking. When my hair would stay up and not be wet, it was okay. Dressing well has always been a big thing with me, and I'm a small woman, so that clothes look pretty good on me most of the time. Nobody ever made any effort about saying they'd take me in and work me over, particularly. But when I was on television in the early fifties, it was no big problem. I looked pretty good. I looked good enough. They'd never seen a woman on television to know what she was supposed to look like. [Laughter.]

Biagi: No yardstick. [Laughter.]

Taylor: Right. In the fifties there was no problem. When I was out running around on special events, there was no problem. When I went back over and was anchoring on shows in the mid-sixties, there was a lot of criticism about my hair.

Biagi: Criticism from—

Taylor: Everybody. My mother, my husband, from whom I was separated—well, divorced, who one time drew a picture of my head on the tube at his house to show me how my hair was so bouffant, it took over the whole screen and there was this little tiny face. So there was considerable complaint about my hair, as there always has been. There have been a lot of ridiculous hairdos, you know, and if nobody's really paying attention—we did have one news director, Grant Holcomb, who wanted me to be blonde. In fact, we tried on some blonde wigs. [Laughter.] It didn't really work very well. I'm half Spanish and I had dark eyes, fairly dark skin. I'm not dark-skinned, but I tan a lot. I just am not a blonde. So that didn't work real well, but he asked me to go to one particular hairdresser and he was reasonably okay, I guess. But my hair, it's become almost a trademark. My hair is going to be pretty crummy. I worry about it, I take care of it, I do all those things, but it just never pleases a whole lot of people. [Laughter.]

It was interesting, though. When I got the Sigma Delta Chi Journalist of the Year Award, I remember I read this letter, because it was a letter from somebody who said, "Well, you've finally done something about your hair. It looks a lot better. But now won't you do something about those eyebrows? They look like handlebars on a motorcycle," or something like that.

You are vulnerable. You're being scrutinized when you're up there, and some people like to pull you apart. Happily, again, if you can have some kind of style that they like, as far as what you do, and also if you don't take yourself too blasted seriously, you know. I've always thought I was pretty much fun and I like to wear crazy hats and I used to like to do crazy stunts and wild closings on my pieces, and take their attention away from my hair. [Laughter.] So I had a lot of style, ways of doing my stories, things that were my own particular trademarks, and that's what's saved me.

Biagi: Let's go back now. We've got you on the radio, your half-hour program, and then you went to Claremont colleges. In a year and a half, you decided academia wasn't your style. Your mother was watching the girls, so it's 1962.

Taylor: 1962, and happily here comes this phone call from this guy who had accepted my resignation, Bob Sutton, who had already had me back to do a whole lot of things. I did a whole

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series of things projecting what the world would be like in the year 2000. I don't remember why I did that. I did it in 1960. That was okay.

Biagi: Did any of it come true?

Taylor: The thing that happened is that they took what the world would be like in the year 2000 and we made up a brochure. I went out and I did what travel would be like, what homes would be like, what communications would be like, what all these things would be like. I did interviews and so on, and I put this all into a publication. I did papers and then it got put into a publication which was terrible. Beautiful artwork. It was a beautifully done brochure. We had a guy in promotion who did the editing on my pieces, who only would let them run to the end of the page, no matter what. There were quotes cut off right in the middle. But it was all right because it was put into a time capsule. It was distributed, I guess, to a few people who didn't know who had done the writing. The pictures were beautiful. They were art, paintings along with all my projections. But this was put into a time capsule, this whole thing, which is down below KNX so many feet. Two-hundred feet? I don't know how many feet. It's in there. But you realize that the year 2000 is coming up and they're going to take that damn thing out of there some day?

Biagi: Yes! They'll have to bring you back.

Taylor: Sutton had me do that. Sutton had me do a lot of things after he'd accepted my resignation. We really had a distant respect for each other.

Biagi: Had KNX moved at this time?

Taylor: KNX still was where it was at Columbia Square. KNXT had moved over to Columbia Square as well.

Sutton called me up in 1962 and said he wanted me to come do a talk show, so I came back and jumped into talk shows. I jumped into a show where I was interviewing people in the morning, then I went on to the "Storyline" program they had talked about my doing something on in '60, and I began to do that all afternoon.

Biagi: What was the morning program called?

Taylor: That was called something A.M., I think. But it was a talk show. It was the kind of thing where you interview somebody and then people call in and ask questions.

Biagi: A half hour?

Taylor: I think it was a half hour.

Biagi: Live?

Taylor: Yes. While I was around, they decided I should also work in the afternoons.

Biagi: "Storyline" now?

Taylor: "Storyline" now.

Biagi: Which is Ralph Story's program?

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Taylor: Ralph Story's program. It was from 12:30 to five. I'd work on Ralph Story's program. Then finally I got to be doing that all the time and we got rid of the morning show. But then they decided somewhere along the line for Pat Buttram and me to do a show together, which was at a quarter to twelve every day, called "The Ruth and Pat Show," which was quite annoying to Pat, my dear friend, because he thought it should be the Pat and Ruth Show. It was "The Ruth and Pat Show," and Bob Sutton, my old nemesis, was the one who insisted it should be "The Ruth and Pat Show." It was a very funny show. We had a wonderful time. It was based on a little feature that Pat did on "Storyline."

"Storyline" was a program that was all afternoon. We did a lot of phone feature stories in the morning and then they would be inserted all afternoon. We'd have the sports man come in and he would give his sports reports, and I'd fight with him. This became kind of a real thing on the air because I represented everybody who doesn't give a damn about sports, so I would fight with him.

Pat had a little feature thing, though, where he would give household hints. Now, if you know Pat Buttram, he's a very funny man, real humorous and very bright, so he'd give these household hints that were just real bizarre and off the wall and very funny and we'd all talk about them. But it became a pretty good feature, so they decided, "Okay, let's put this on for fifteen minutes in the morning." We would start with a question. "What do you do with coat hangers?" Or, "How do you keep onions from making you cry?" Or some deep story like that, a big premise like that. That would be the question. Or, "How do you start a conversation?" This was an interesting one. How do you start a conversation when you're with a group of people and everything stops? Things like that. Okay. So now here's Ruth and Pat and the phone is going to ring and people are going to give us all the ideas on this crazy thing. Pat's going to make cracks about them and I'm going to keep Pat from going overboard. So we're going to have a lot of byplay. We did that, and it was just greatly successful as a show. It became kind of a camp thing. A lot of professional people would go to lunch early and hear it on the radio. It was going really well.

It did really well until I went to Europe. I went to Europe. There was a woman who was the wife of a talent around there, who had done a couple of things on the air and they were good friends of Bob Sutton, and she wanted to take my place while I was gone. The person who was running "Storyline" (and Ralph wasn't at that point) said, "She's not going to be on 'Storyline.'" Okay, so she wasn't going to take my place on "Storyline." So they put her on "The Ruth and Pat Show." When I came back from Europe, because she wanted a job, they let her stay on "The Ruth and Pat Show." It killed "The Ruth and Pat Show"! [Laughter.]

Biagi: It couldn't be called "The Ruth and Pat Show" anymore if it wasn't Ruth, right?

Taylor: That's right. But it was like a wake around there, because it had been such a successful show and the phones rang off the hook. We all had to go to the bar and commiserate with each other. It was a disaster because it depended on the people and the chemistry, and there was no chemistry with Pat and this other person.

Biagi: Why did you go to Europe?

Taylor: For a vacation. I took my kids for five weeks.

Biagi: You just went.

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Taylor: Yes. That was in '64.

Biagi: You'd been doing it for two years.

Taylor: About a year with "The Ruth and Pat Show." "Storyline," we were full time. The big job was "Storyline." This Ruth and Pat thing didn't amount to a whole lot, except it was a lot of fun, it was easy to do, and it was just extremely successful. Anyway, it got killed off.

Biagi: Did you have any inkling that would happen when you left?

Taylor: No. I was devastated by it, but I particularly liked the fact I went up in the general manager's office the first day that I wasn't going to be on it anymore, after it was decided that this would be a permanent thing, and it's really true that the phones all through that place just rang off the hook, that it was a disaster, all this terrible stuff. I loved it. This woman was a really dippy lady. I can't tell you who she was married to because you'd know the name and everybody would know the name. Ultimately she even accused me of having an affair with her husband. It was interesting, because she accused me of having an affair with her husband just after I'd been married to Jack. She said, "And I'm afraid I'll probably have to tell Jack about it."

I said, "Well, why don't you? He's right here." And I put him on the phone.

[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]

Biagi: So we're at "Storyline."

Taylor: "Firing Line."

Biagi: "Firing Line" in "Storyline." Before you go on, I wanted to clarify something. You said that was 12:30 to five. Is that right?

Taylor: Right.

Biagi: And that's live. Is he on the air that whole time in the afternoon?

Taylor: This was a mix of all of us.

Biagi: The program went for four and a half hours?

Taylor: Yes. There would be network news at the top of the hour, which would give you a chance to go get a drink of water or whatever else. It was interesting. You'd also have to get ready for "Firing Line." Whoever did "Firing Line"—and I started out alternating, then ended up doing it most of the time myself—it would be on, but spelled the people who were on "Storyline" for that period of time. So if you did "Firing Line" and the rest of "Storyline," you were on. Ralph did "Firing Line" for a long time.

Biagi: It was an all-local program produced at KNXT.

Taylor: KNX.

Biagi: For four and a half hours.

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Taylor: That was a long, long time. It was really tedious.

Biagi: Radio or TV?

Taylor: Radio.

Biagi: So you're back to radio and you're off "The Ruth and Pat Show"?

Taylor: We were doing "Storyline" and I did "The Ruth and Pat Show" until this crazy lady came along and I wasn't doing Ruth and Pat, but I was still doing "Storyline" and doing the "Firing Line" most of the time, "Firing Line" with great people. It was a way to dip into your audience, too. We had a splendid audience. We had an audience that represented Southern California, because Southern California, as we so often tried to tell the people with all their little surveys and so forth, is a highly cosmopolitan area. There are probably more colleges and universities in that viewer/listening area than any other concentrated place in the country. There is more R&D [Research and Development] down there. You have people with high levels of education down there. So much of the programming, and particularly now, simply appeals to the mass common denominator. So when you do appeal to the mass common denominator, these very large groups of people who are interested in having something that challenges them a little bit or informs them of something they didn't know before just go away.

In this "Storyline" program, we could tell through "Firing Line" that they were there. They were listening, because you'd have archaeologists on. One time I had the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra on. We would have top writers. I remember having James Baldwin on. That was very interesting, because he hated reporters and didn't have any regard for most of them, and I got along really well with him. It was a very literate audience so that the people who would call in would also be bright. But I remember, too, for instance, I had on one day Robert Welch, who started the John Birch Society, and the next day I had Julian Bond. I had Dick Gregory. One time I had Mahalia Jackson on. People at CBS Records were arranging that she come in, and they said, "The only thing we ask is that you don't tell her the program is called the 'Firing Line.'" [Laughter.)

Biagi: Oh, yes! [Laughter.]

Taylor: We had a lot of entertainers, too. I did a lot of stories with Johnny Green, conductor, composer, and he would always come in and comment on what was going on with this Beatlemania stuff and all that. KCET, public television, was developing, and we'd have a guy from public television. We had a wonderful director of the Los Angeles Zoo at that time, and I would have him on from time to time. There were wonderfully interesting questions about the animals and about zoology and all kinds of things.

Biagi: This is all studio?

Taylor: This is all in the studio. As I was also commenting, we had the politicians. One of the worst things that happened, at that time it was particularly mandated that you have all of the competitors in a political race. In 1964, there were eleven people in the general area running for the United States Senate, and I had most of them on. There were a lot of good people. Pierre Salinger was, of course, the maverick and carpetbagger who came in because the Kennedys brought him in. Alan Cranston ran that year. That was the year George Murphy won because the Democrats blew it with too many people. That could be a little hard, because some of these

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people were pretty wacky that would be on, running, just because they had certain interests that they wanted to promote.

I had Nelson Rockefeller, Barry Goldwater. Barry Goldwater had some serious disputes with the press, let's say. He was very crabby with a lot of reporters. The day I had him on "Firing Line," I got a call from the first floor from the receptionist saying, "Senator Goldwater is in the lobby."

"Okay, send him up with all of the entourage." I stood outside the elevator waiting for him to come. We were on the second floor. He had left the first floor, obviously, but never arrived. The elevator got stuck. Of course, he had not liked reporters in the first place, and I thought, "He's going to really be in great spirit when he comes out of the top of the elevator." Well, he came out of the top of the elevator and he was in great spirits. He was fine, he was gracious, he was very nice. He'd apparently had a good time in the elevator, and we had a good program.

It was interesting when I had Nelson Rockefeller on. We had a seven-second delay, so that if somebody called in and there were some words that shouldn't be on the air, they could be cut off. Walter Winchell was with him, the rat-a-tat guy, the columnist. Walter Winchell sat in the control room while we were on the air, and he spent the entire hour wondering why our lips didn't say what the words were saying. We had this seven-second delay. He went back, though, and he did a real nice column in which he mentioned that experience and suggested Mr. [Bill] Paley pay attention to me, which was nice. It's just an example of the kind of thing. We had very stimulating programs. We'd really bone up for these. I studied hard, because you were doing a cram job every day.

Biagi: How did you study? What was your method?

Taylor: Basically you'd have people who would have to get some information for you. Like with Dick Gregory, I would listen to some of his recordings. There would be people who would be kind of baffling to me as to how you'd tackle them. James Baldwin was very crabby, but very talented, a brilliant person, of course in the middle of the civil rights movement. I simply read a lot, that's all. I was cramming because I didn't have that much time. I was on the air a lot. It was very good to do. Goodness sakes, I had—who was the guy I hate, who was the LSD guru? I'm trying to think of some of the other people that you never hear of on the air anymore. A lot of authors. It was a stimulating program, and the audience reflected it because the questions were right. Doctors, all kinds of people on. We hit the top of the news all the time. Had a good producer, and he was getting people.

Biagi: What was his name?

Taylor: I can't remember. There were a couple of different ones. Anyway, I always felt that was extremely rewarding because it was not trivial. It was not trying just to be sensational. We had movie stars from time to time. I remember Phyllis Diller. I had her on. She had a lot of interesting things to say. She had been a very shy person when she was growing up. You got the inside story of some of these people. I had Bette Davis on. Who's the guy who does AT&T [American Telephone and Telegraph] who I thought was a real doll? [Laughter.] I'm getting ahead of myself in some of the people I had on, because I had some people later when I was doing the night program. That's another part of this saga.

Biagi: We're on "Storyline" now. That goes on for how long?

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Taylor: Finally the thing that happened was that "Storyline" got bitten off at the top and the bottom. They put in another program because the networks were following a lead of something that was succeeding. We were succeeding very well, but someplace in St. Louis or someplace else, they did "Ask the Lawyer," "Ask the Vet," "Ask the Something" kind of program. They decided to change our format, so they would put on the "Ask the Somebody." They tore us down and had us not as long, and they would have the "Ask the—" whatever it was on. Then "Firing Line" would follow that, and then some other kind of programming. This broke down into that in about 1965. It changed.

Well, it became interesting, because for a long time after they changed the format for the afternoon, "Firing Line" was preeminent. It was still that high rating. It was standing out there as a remnant of the past. But gradually as they changed this format, they began to get a different kind of call on "Firing Line." You couldn't any longer put archaeologists on or the head of the Philharmonic Orchestra on, because the audience would be [for] "Ask the Lawyer," "Ask the Cook," and so on. The audience got to be diluted, got to be a different kind of audience. Some people we'd targeted would come into our hour for a long time, but then gradually the following eroded away. I've always used that as an example of what they can do to audiences. We knew because of the calls that we had a highly sophisticated, very intelligent audience, and there were a lot of them, a whole lot. We had the highest rating in town. But they were able to destroy that by putting the common denominator in there, and they did.

I was still doing "Firing Line," though. I still continued to do "Firing Line" after this all changed, and they put on a talk show at night. The talk show host for the night program was Michael Jackson.

Biagi: Not as in dancer/singer, but as in British Michael Jackson.

Taylor: Yes, British Michael Jackson. This was like 1966. I'm doing "Firing Line," Michael Jackson is now doing the 7:30 to 11:30, or maybe it was eight to 11:30, talk show. But Michael Jackson had had trouble at a preceding station and he'd been fired. He came to KNX, and I don't know how long he was on, but they wanted to fire him there, too. They had trouble with him. I don't know what was the trouble, because I wasn't ever listening to him. But when he had been fired from the preceding program, he had been told a couple of weeks before they let him go, so he spent the last two weeks bad-mouthing the station that he was being fired from. So when he came to KNX and they decided to fire him, they came to me and said, "We're going to fire him, but we don't want to tell him until after he's done his last show. We want somebody ready to step in the next day." They fired him on a Friday night, so it was the following Monday. They wanted me because I was known by the audience and it wouldn't be as big a shock for people. So that's the way it was. They told Michael. I was doing "Firing Line" and I forget what else. That was all I was really doing. It hadn't been too long that this had all broken down. But I was doing "Firing Line" and it was a substantial show. Now they wanted me to do, they said just for a few weeks, Michael's show, which was probably eight to 11:30.

Biagi: That's a long talk show.

Taylor: A long talk show at night.

Biagi: This is what year now?

Taylor: 1966. They put me on that.

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Biagi: What did they tell him when you were on?

Taylor: They told him Friday night. It was his last show. They told him it was his last show after he finished his last show. Then I went on Monday.

It so happened there was a great big battle around town because the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had just opened up, and they had an artist being shown over there in the opening show that was very controversial. Keinholz, I guess it was. Anyway, there was a big fight because the county museum received substantial money from the L.A. County supervisors and from the county of Los Angeles. The L.A. County supervisors were objecting to this one artist, and it became a great big thing. They didn't want the show to go on, they didn't want the museum to open. The museum director was a very well-known director of museums around, and he was having this big fight with the supervisors. It was dandy. So I had them for my first show.

Biagi: Dandy for you. [Laughter.]

Taylor: Yes. I had the museum director and one of the supervisors on, and it was such a dynamic hour the first hour, that I kept them on for the second hour, with people calling in. So it was really a pretty good one to pick up when you had to take somebody's place. But I did that show and I felt like I was chained to a microphone, at night particularly. You'd work in the day and get ready for whatever challenges you had, and then I'd have to get ready for this big long haul at night. There was no way out. I'd go home and I'd have my dinner really fast and turn around and come back, now put the chain on around your neck, hook you on to that microphone, and you're not leaving here until after 11:30. It was grueling. At nighttime you get a lot of different dynamics going in terms of the people who come in and whether they've had dinner or not had dinner or whether they've had too much to drink or not. I had a really smashed prosecutor on one night. I couldn't get him out of the studio.

Biagi: It was a call-in show?

Taylor: Call-in show, but I had really good people. I had a wonderful show one night with Ray Bradbury and the Smothers brothers, all three of them together. They were just hilarious. It was fantastic.

Then once they got me on the show, they weren't letting me off. I couldn't get off that show till I went over to television and said, "Hey, I want to come back to television. I've got to get out of there!"

Biagi: How long was this that you were on that until I 1:30?

Taylor: I was on for six, eight weeks, something like that, and there was no sign they were going to let me off. Even though they'd said it was a temporary job, I was hooked. I would go over, and a friend of mine, Grant Holcomb, had become news director.

Biagi: In television?

Taylor: In television.

Biagi: KNXT?

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Taylor: KNXT. The way he put it, as long as I was so unhappy at KNX. Actually, I wasn't unhappy. I was just worked to a frazzle. There was nothing left of me. I had a friend, I remember, who came out from New York, who wanted to see me in my spare time, this old friend. So I saw him for a drink after I was off the air at 11:30. I think I sat there like a zombie and I never heard from him again. [Laughter.]

Biagi: So your social life wasn't that great.

Taylor: Well, I didn't have any life at all, because I couldn't even see my kids, really. If you're working that long at night and you're working in the daytime, they're going to school. I just felt tortured by that whole schedule. So I prepared to make my move, and I talked to the news director at Channel 2, whom I knew very well, and he knew I was unhappy, so he said he didn't want me on the street. [Laughter.] So he asked me to come over and then the first thing he assigned me to was anchoring a Saturday news show. That's the first show I went onto anchor! I hadn't been in television since '52. I had done some special events, the Rose Parade a few times for Channel 5 in the interim, but I'd mainly been with radio. I remember the director saying, as I went in to anchor this show, "Couldn't they put you on a five-minute piece to start with or something like that?"

Biagi: This is what year?

Taylor: 1966.

Biagi: What month?

Taylor: It was late, I guess. It was probably August, September, something like that.

Biagi: It was a half-hour news show?

Taylor: Yes. This was a Saturday show. In order to survive it, I also was working on the Monday through Friday shows as a reporter.

Biagi: This is the big news now?

Taylor: I was working on the big news as a reporter. This one that I was anchoring was just Saturday news. But in order for that show, because there was so much time to fill and, as usual on Saturdays, they don't give much of a darn about it, so they don't give you good backup, the producers would be shifting around. I remember one time going in with three pages of a script for a half hour and then they feed you the pages as you go. The writers aren't that great. You've got to correct the facts as you go.

So in order to survive that, I did a series that I really liked doing and it was very successful. It was what I called an At Home Series, where I would go out to different people's homes. I went out to Ronald Reagan's home. I went out to Bob Finch's home. I went out to celebrity homes, Edith Head's home. I went out to Jack Kent Cooke's home. I went out to famous architects' homes, people who are extremely well known, and would do these, walk through their homes, see what kind of places they had, which is always fun, and you see their family and what their hobbies are. Then you'd sit down and have an in-depth conversation with them. I had one of those at the home of Ray Bradbury and I think it ran eleven minutes. But by doing that, I could take the heat off myself as the anchor. So that was great. That worked pretty well.

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Biagi: Let me go over those names. Ronald Reagan and Bob Finch. You've going to have to tell me.

Taylor: Bob Finch was lieutenant governor, then he was secretary of Health, Education and Welfare with the Nixon administration. He was in the White House with [Richard] Nixon as well as one of his chief aides. Bob Finch, in fact, tried to get me an appointment to the FCC Commission. He almost succeeded. [Robert] Haldeman got his guy instead of Finch. Finch was very, very big.

Biagi: Edith Head, we all see her name a lot.

Taylor: She was a big designer.

Biagi: And Jack Kent Cooke?

Taylor: Jack Kent Cooke was the owner of the Lakers for a long time. He built the Forum in Los Angeles. What are all the teams that he owned and operated? He was a big, big sports promoter, a cocky guy, and he had a home that was a duplicate of a Venetian manor. These places that I would see, I'd go out and talk to baseball players. I went out to Don Drysdale's, the pitcher. He had horses. Just a variety of people, but it was fascinating to see where they lived, what kind of hobbies they had, what their families were like. It was like the old person-to-person thing that Ed Murrow used to do.

Biagi: What do you remember about Ronald Reagan's house?

Taylor: This was when he was running for governor. They lived in the Palisades and you could see out to the Santa Monica Bay. I interviewed him and talked to him by the pool at that point, very casually dressed, and then I walked around with Nancy. They had a bunch of photographs on the piano. I saw them many times. I interviewed them many times and was up in Sacramento a lot with them. Then Pat Brown, because Pat used to have a Los Angeles residence down on Muirfield in Hancock Park, and he had wonderful press parties every year before the press got so big that everybody stopped having press parties because it was too big. I did Pat.

Biagi: Edith Head's home would have been interesting.

Taylor: Fascinating!

Biagi: What was it like?

Taylor: She was on Coldwater Canyon. She had a sort of hacienda-type house. It was a big lot. Of course, this is a very high-rent district, but fruit trees and a lot of foliage around. Then it was a Mexican style, not Spanish style. It could be called early California, I suppose. You had a particular way you had to go in. There were chimes and you had to ring the bell a certain way. Then she'd take you in through certain ceremonial places. For every room she had inside, she had a room outside. Like for the kitchen, she'd have a kitchen inside, but then she'd have like the barbecue and outside cooking area. Bedrooms she'd have inside and then she'd have outside hammocks and things for the outside sleeping areas. It was a fascinating place. It was adobe, as I recall, and it was so fascinating that I couldn't get the cameraman to ever quit shooting it, because he even had to go back that evening and shoot some more because she was very gracious about beverages and refreshments, and I had a cameraman who liked beverages of all kinds. But she was great. That was a very memorable one.

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I did Phyllis Diller's house. What was it she called it? She had names for every room. Some of them you shouldn't even mention. [Laughter.] But I know the front room was named after Bob Hope. I forget what she called it. I can't remember some of the jokes she made out of some of her rooms.

Biagi: So these were long produced pieces that you put together.

Taylor: Long produced pieces. Ray Bradbury was always a good friend of mine and a person I did lots of stories with, and he would come raging up when I was doing "Firing Line" and saying, "You've got to put me on. I've got to be on your program," because he was always fighting with the transportation company. He doesn't drive. He doesn't believe in cars, although he travels.

Biagi: A futurist, right?

Taylor: Right. He would go, though, on buses, but he always hated the bus system. He'd always have a great bone to pick about it. I know he's written about it a lot, but he also felt that there should be somebody like Walt Disney who would design a transportation system for the Los Angeles area, and it would take a Walt Disney. But he felt there could be some kind of imagination that would get people to where they wanted to go without spending twelve hours on a bus. He was always upset, and it was fascinating. I mentioned I had Ray and the Smothers brothers on together.

Biagi: I can't imagine that. [Laughter.]

Taylor: All extremely articulate, and Ray is as brilliant and eloquent in his speech as he is in his writing. The interesting thing was that Ray hates cars, and the Smothers brothers have this great big thing for cars. They like to tinker around and they like machines.

Biagi: They even race.

Taylor: Oh, yes. They liked each other. They all had a good time. The fascinating thing with that show was that we had to do our own commercials a lot, and every time I would be ready to do a commercial, one of the Smothers brothers would take the copy away from me and do the commercial. It was just a hilarious evening. It had nothing to do with the news. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Or journalism, but— [Laughter.]

Taylor: But it was fun.

Biagi: What about this relationship with journalists? They're often interviewing a lot of well-known people and get to know, as you said, several people you got to know.

Taylor: We became good friends. Right.

Biagi: Is there any danger in that? Did you ever feel a time when there was a good friend you had to interview and a difficult topic and asked difficult questions?

Taylor: No, because if you're a professional and have done it for a while, you can keep your personal feeling out of it. I like the fact that generally speaking, nobody has ever known what kind of a political party I might be affiliated with. It could be the Outer Moon Green party. Don't mention Green party. For instance, I still have been doing "Newsmakers" for many, many

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years, and I like to just do as much taking apart of somebody as I can. I can go in there with Zev Yaroslavski down in Los Angeles or the person who did Prop 140. Some of them I had great battles with. My job is to do battle with them, but some of these people are some of my good friends in a lot of ways. I don't socialize a great deal with people that I do stories with, but politically it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It's a whole conditioning, I think.

Biagi: Do you see your role that way, as antagonist? How do you see your role?

Taylor: Basically I like to be tough. I like to be hard hitting. But a four-letter word that's a terribly important one is "fair," and I like the fact that in that room over there where I've got those plaques and resolutions, that "fair" and "honest" are the things that I get praised for and have kept me in the business for a long time. You won't be in it a long time if you get too many enemies. You're not going to get them back to be on your show, and if you've had a show for thirty years or you think you want one for thirty years, you're darn well going to have to be able to be respected enough that people will come back and talk to you after they've done it once or twice. It's not going to be such a terrible experience. We have people who have said about certain experiences they've had, "I'll never go near that place again. I'll never talk to that person again." We've heard those situations. You can't do it that way. Furthermore, I don't think you like your job if you're trying to promote your own personal views.

To me the job of a journalist is to inform everybody, not just the Democrats or not just the Republicans or not just the Green party or whoever. You're supposed to be able to communicate with all the folks out there. You want to be tough because these folks ask for it if they're up there in the public eye. But you've got to be fair because they're going to see through it if you're trying to promote yourself and you're not fair. And promote yourself is what you're doing when you start to slant the way you do your questions. That's important. That's so important. I also enjoy it that way, where you have a relationship with the people you're talking to. You like to hit them as hard as you can, because that's why they're there, you know.

Biagi: Do you remember an incident when it was particularly difficult to do that, when you ever felt that you just couldn't hit this person as hard as you'd like to, or where your personal relationship focused you on the problem that the two of you had just being on the air together, that made it hard to ask the questions you knew you should as a journalist?

Taylor: It doesn't have so much to do with any preconception you might have, where you would be hesitant because you were afraid of hurting their feelings or something, because you'll adapt to that. You won't be as tough on somebody if you've got somebody who is terribly sensitive. You're not going to be appreciated by an audience if you take advantage of somebody who has got a weakness of some kind, so you've got to know that. You've got to be very sensitive to that. I would say that when you can't do it the way you want to, when you can't be as tough as you want to, or in some way can't perform the way you want to, it has more to do with the chemistry or the dynamics of that relationship at that moment and you don't know how that's going to be.

There are times when somebody doesn't feel well, you don't feel well, or there's just a chemistry, just like your chemistry with people in general. Sometimes you open up, you've got a good rapport. There are some people who are timid that you meet, and I can't think of specific examples, that you can't get to, you just can't get to. It's not that you can't hit them as hard. A lot of people you're just getting information from, too, and you're not trying to really challenge them like you are politicians a lot. But some people go inside, they're not comfortable, and you can have some pretty miserable times where you can't get to them, not because you don't want to,

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but because there's just a barrier in the personality situation. That happens. Also you can have some people who are just plain dull. [Laughter.]

Biagi: That's your worst fear. [Laughter.]

Taylor: You get plenty of them. And not that they're plain dull. Who did I talk to the other day? I guess it was the governor's folks, as a matter of fact.

Biagi: Governor Pete Wilson.

Taylor: Governor Pete Wilson's folks, because I was talking about how some of the people who are the most brilliant, who have the most to say, who really could sparkle and stimulate you if you could get to them, can't express themselves. When I say that, I think of a lot of people in the technological fields or science per se. A lot of scientists and people whom I have such great admiration for, people I truly wanted to have reveal themselves as they do sometimes in a classroom or in a private party or something of this sort, and you get them on the air and you can't get it out of them.

I had this one person I was so intrigued with, who was the president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, and he had been a brilliant nuclear physicist and had been involved with certain developments that were terribly important in the atomic world, and also he had been a merchant mariner. He had a broad background, and he sparkled. He actually could be just on fire, he was so excited about so many ideas. But you couldn't get it from the inside to the outside. He just didn't know how to express himself. He was one of the persons who made me feel that scientists and some of these people who have so much to say should really think about the fact that they need to take some public speaking or need to have some coaching, because it's important that they get out what they have to say. We've got a lot of idiot politicians running around who need to know a lot more about science and need to know a lot more about technology in actual fact. I mean, not just pretend like they know and read an article. So these people need to communicate, some of these people who just can't express themselves.

When I was talking to the governor's folks the other day, I was saying, on the other hand, you can get some real idiots who are very suave and slick and articulate, who can just dazzle you with footwork and express themselves eloquently for a short period of time because they don't have enough to say and don't have enough in their heads to go on for long. You see it in politicians, where they can be dramatic and eloquent and move an audience for a while, can try, and the most eloquent have the least to say, and some of those who can't say it have the most to say.

So those are the frustrations, not so much your own frustration that you're timid about the attack. You don't attack under certain circumstances. Though I've been thought as a tough questioner and somebody who digs into them, you don't go with any kind of vindictiveness or any kind of challenge. You're just trying to get information out of them and reasons for things they do.

Biagi: When you think about difficult moments on "Newsmakers" or any of the other live interviews that you've had, do two or three come to mind? I don't mean difficult because nobody would talk, but because they revealed something that you remember?

Taylor: You think back and you've got a lot of shows and you come out and you're not that happy with them. [Laughter.] There are so darn many over the years, you can't think. I can

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think of where you get somebody who is not with us, who's been drinking or something, on a live show, which I think I mentioned I had had that experience. That's terrible. We used to be in combinations of two or three always, in panels, and I've had experiences that the hardest part was not with the guests, but with your colleagues. That can be difficult. Sometimes your producers will want to put somebody up there because they want them to be seen or have the illusion or image of being knowledgeable and able to do these talk things, and they may not have nearly enough background.

I know there was one particular person who is extremely well known in Los Angeles, and this makes for a difficult moment. You could be going along. This would be when we'd have panels of three. You're going along, you think you've got some kind of a direction with the questions and answers, although with three it's difficult going in, but all of a sudden this colleague who's sitting there will come out from left field with some kind of a question that completely leaves you awestruck as to where the heck it came from and throw the whole conversation into another direction. Now you try to bring it back. That's hard. That happens a lot. You can have more trouble with the people you're working with than the people you're working against. [Laughter.]

I have also been on a program where the person who was anchoring the talk show had overindulged, and you just do a lot of talking because you're going to have to fill in for that person. Those are difficult times.

Biagi: We talked about broadcast journalism and print journalism, and the skills are so different. Do you think that's true?

Taylor: Yes. I don't think they still should be different. I don't think they are different in a lot of cases. Certainly with print journalism, the print people, a lot of them, have had more experience now in questioning for something live or on the air, because they have been around. They used to hate, of course, being in the same news conference with the idiot broadcasters, because they didn't think they had any brains. But I think that maybe in some ways they have learned that you can ask questions without being too long, too involved, and there are ways of asking questions that will get more out of the person who is up there. I think print folks ask shorter, better questions in a lot of cases than they used to, because you could go on forever on these little tiny things. What you used to find a lot, much more than you do now, is that some of the people in a news conference really wanted to show what they know.

Biagi: Reporters, you mean?

Taylor: Reporters. So that they would keep on asking questions or they'd ask them in ways that sort of showed them off; or they'd ask a question that might be oblique or obscure, to show that they really were original thinkers. On the other hand, you do have many, too many broadcast reporters—I'm not going to call them journalists in all cases—who are inadequately trained, much more than you should have. That's because in many cases we are talking about how you look. This can happen a lot with men and women, where you have these tapes that are circulated around the country to all the different stations by the agents, and a person is hired on the basis of how he or she looks on a tape and what kind of great releases somebody can turn out. Maybe they have pretty good writing. In an awful lot of these puff pieces about people, they snow somebody who's a general manager or news director. Somebody is hired who just hasn't the foggiest notion what stories are or what journalism is, because they look good and they have production skills. That's the term.

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I think I've told you—I don't know whether I said it in this series—but I did a speech before a writers' conference once, and I went to the news director at the time, getting ready for the speech, and said, "When you are thinking of hiring a reporter, how big a part does the person's writing ability play in your decision to hire somebody?" He said, "Absolutely none." Now, I can't think that journalism is anything different from telling stories. You tell stories, you convey information, and generally speaking the way you learn to do that is by writing. If you can't write, I'm not sure that you can talk that well either. But the fact that there are people who can't write, I suppose, is why we have so many tyrants who are alleged managing editors, because they have to rewrite almost everything that people turn in.

So you used to have quite a few windy folks who were on the print side, who really resented the broadcast side. I don't think that's true so much anymore. They know who the dummies are, probably, in any given market. You have many, too many for a while. These people who don't know how to write and don't have much background, can't last forever and don't last forever. Sometimes they learn something. But one thing that happens now, and I've complained about this in recent times, I've talked about it in the last couple of days with a couple of people, you have such concentration now on the police beat. I mean, crime is leading all your shows.

[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]

Taylor: I think in a lot of cases, you look at what people want, they want action, they want short stories. You can tell a police story in a minute and a half. A political story is a lot harder to tell in a minute and a half if you're going to make it understandable to anybody, or a good feature story or say you've got some interesting sidebars on education. Gosh, we used to do a lot of really great stories about teachers who had innovative ways of teaching math by having their class maybe play the stock market or something like that. I remember doing a second grade that had a cookie company and the kids were learning about numbers with the cookie company. And they would actually sell cookies and their mothers would make them. These were little stories, but to make them charming, to make them have feeling, to tell them right, to tell the story takes some good writing. It will still hold you. A good, well-told story can hold you for a long time and we see it in "60 Minutes," we see it in a lot of situations. But these mandates that are coming out in a lot of news programs are for a minute and a half, and story count becomes the most important thing, and it's all phoney. It isn't what the audience is looking for. You look at a news broadcast with all the stories running a minute and a half or less and somebody says, "What did you just see?" Maybe you remember a couple of the bloody things or something, but it's not information about what is my world today. Tell me what happened in my world today, where I live, not just how many guys were knocked off down on the East Side or South Side or wherever is the bad side.

Biagi: Let's compare the criteria for what a good newscast was and a good news program was when you first started in television broadcasting news and how the criteria has changed, the differences that you see, since you have this perspective.

Taylor: Let me tell you some of the things that were fascinating. We did do good stories on politics, on the big news which was preeminent in the country. We're talking about the sixties now, where you've got equipment and the tools to work with. In the primitive days, you didn't have a lot of the tools, and it's awfully hard to just sit there and tell a story that goes on for two

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and a half, three minutes. If you're ad libbing a special event or something, you can do it. Now in the sixties you had the tools. You were able to tell the story.

Biagi: By tools, what do you mean?

Taylor: I mean the tape or the film. We had visuals, we had good people basically. I guess I'm talking about the visuals and the equipment in your studios to be able to edit and do a good little production. We had bureaus, for one thing. We had a bureau in Sacramento. I remember when Warren Olney used to be at this bureau. He would tell what was going on at the capital and he would do that with some visuals and time. Then he'd go off into the Sierra and do maybe some environmental stories, and we did a lot on the environment.

I remember when they did infrared photography around the Lake Arrowhead area in Southern California. My husband and I went up and we took our own infrared camera, film, and we flew over the forests because it was going to take the forestry folks a long time to come out with their report. When you get into the bureaucracy, it's going to be months. So we flew over where they went and looked at what they looked at, and the next day we had our infrared stuff on and it was fascinating stuff. It was a story about how smog is killing the forests in Lake Arrowhead. Consumer stories that you can tell, and some of the violations and fraud that goes on. We've had a good series that has been on about worker's comp, for instance. It takes some time to tell stories like that. But we were doing the political stories.

Biagi: The big news went how long?

Taylor: An hour.

Biagi: Local news and then expanded.

Taylor: Local news, an hour long, and when I was on that show, the size of my normal piece was three and a half minutes. In recent times, not that long ago, a normal political story that I would do would be two and a half or two thirty-five, and that's just about the right time to get all the back-and-forth dynamics of the debate and so forth. It worked. It holds a lot better to do a well-told story than to just do it so quickly that you don't put any of the beginning, middle, and end, and conflict and the things that make good storytelling. But in the big news, three and a half minutes would be a regular piece, and maybe we wouldn't have a piece on every day.

I remember one time my husband and I did a piece. We went out and there was this crowd we had heard about in the San Gabriel Valley. A teacher who was teaching in her spare time musically inclined kids, getting them together for an orchestra in the San Gabriel Valley. She had done wonderful things. This orchestra was going to play at the Music Center, and we went out just to see. She was so dedicated and she devoted so much of her time, when she got these kids, she worked them hard and they turned out just great stuff. We did that story. You had music, you had dedication of a teacher, you had kids working for excellence, you had all these great things. It took some time, but it was pretty—

I remember even a story like an entertainment story. I think about it. I forget the guy's name, but he had won an Oscar as a supporting actor. He was going to be on a "Gunsmoke" episode and they were taping it the next day after the Oscars. They were going to have a big celebration for him, and it was all secret. We went out. Jack and I did this one. He didn't know. We saw him doing some other stuff. This is entertainment when they would maybe let you run, but we ran four and a half minutes. We sort of let our audience in on what was going to happen,

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but that he didn't know. Then when it came to the celebration and you had all these people, you had Matt Dillon and the people that everybody knew, and this guy walks in and here's this big surprise for him. We let this thing run and it ran four and a half minutes, which is great. Sometimes things are happening on a scene. Now they would maybe want a minute and a half. You tell what happened and you give a little clip there at the end.

Biagi: What's different, then?

Taylor: Consultants.

Biagi: When did the consultants first show up?

Taylor: In the seventies. There was a crowd called the Magid crowd. I'm not a big student of this. I just know I hate the thought.

Biagi: How did that affect you, though?

Taylor: How it affected us is that the biggest ax for us came at the end of the sixties, early seventies, when New York started to take over.

Biagi: The network?

Taylor: We are an owned and operated station, Channel 2, but during the big news period, I told you one of the jobs of a news director was to stand in the door and say, "Stay out." It was very funny, because Grant Holcomb, whom I mentioned, who hired me over there, was known as the phantom because he found that the way to keep them out from mingling or from tampering was that they couldn't ask him to do something different if they couldn't find him. So he was always someplace else, and nobody could find him. They finally promoted him up and out and a regime came in that just was beholden and would take orders from New York. New York decided, for one thing, they came in and they were going to cut costs, the great big thing, and also they'd heard about what great success there is with some of these formulae. [Tape interruption.]

Biagi: We've got the CBS news executive looking for Grant Holcomb.

Taylor: Of course, they couldn't find him. What happened, they booted him upstairs sideways, slid him sideways so that he was out of there, and then they brought in somebody else, actually somebody who was there. But he was somebody who would do what the people wanted from New York. We had been very successful. The big news was still the highest rated show in the country.

Biagi: For at least ten years.

Taylor: Yes. It still was. It's like when "The Ruth and Pat Show" went off and Pat was saying, "My mother always says don't tamper with success." But whoever was doing things in the East, somehow they had to show that they were in charge. But it became a tampering, a cost cutting, and they heard of this big success of some of these new formulae around like the Magid folks. They also decided they would clean house. They fired the weatherman. Bill Keene, who had been so successful and is now still a fixture in Los Angeles, he's on KNX in the morning. He's been around. He was the most well-known weatherperson probably in the whole country. Well, they fired him because "Now we've got to change things, even though it's been so successful. We're going to change things. We're going to get rid of all these old guys." They fired Keene,

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they got rid of Gil Stratton, who was the sports guy, they fired a guy named Saul Halpert. Saul had been doing politics. I was slated to be fired.

In '72 I remember Jim Brown, who has been very successful at NBC doing entertainment things. On the anniversary of the 1971 earthquake, which was February ninth, I think it is, they hadn't planned in advance, and they called Jim in to do an anniversary thing on the earthquake. He did this really very good thing. I remember the piece, a year after it happened, what it's like, and so on. As soon as the story was off the air, they called him in and fired him. It was one of the original blood baths. We've had a whole bunch of them since then. I was slated to also be let go.

Biagi: How did you know this?

Taylor: Because Bill Ames told me. In fact, I'll get to that, because it so happened I was to be let go. The day I was to be let go, I'm thinking this must be '73, because that was a municipal election year. They had never discovered that everything in a municipal election happens at city hall. That's where the votes are counted by the city clerk. That's where the results come out and they go around and put them in all these baskets that are around. That's where everything comes in first. That's where all the candidates come to see what's going on and all the rest of it. So when they set up their coverage for the primary, which is in April, they sent me down with a runner. I took Laurie with me, my daughter. Then they had all their hot shots in the studio back in Hollywood. Well, it was a heavy-duty thing. It was the [Mayor Tom] Bradley night. He won the final election. I can't remember how he came out on the primary.

Anyway, here we've got all of this going on and, of course, a million people running the primaries. The primaries are always so much harder to cover than are the finals because you've got so darn many people and so darn many issues, all these things. But the people back there making plans never recognize that. Anyway, I'm down there by myself, but I've got my daughter with me and I've got a runner with me. I kept them busy and they were having to come to me about every two seconds. In fact, I did the show that night, to a large extent, because that's where everything was happening, and it was a big night. I was slated to be fired the next day. As Ames told me, when he saw the people, he said, "I can't fire her. She just saved our ass." [Laughter.] And Bill, when he told me that, he said, "And I want you to know, Ruth, that as long as I'm news director, you have a job here." And I've often said, "And I'm glad it was longer," because he was fired a few months later. [Laughter.]

Biagi: [Laughter.] So much for stability.

Taylor: Right! So he was fired, and then we've had this whole parade of people. But I always loved it. I remember that. "I want you to know, as long as I'm news director, you've got a job here." "Thanks, Bill. I'm glad it's longer than that." [Laughter.]

Biagi: Did anybody ever come to you, consultants, and say you should do your stories differently or you should do these kinds of stories or you should present them differently?

Taylor: Oh, I've been ground up pretty good. Not consultants. I've had different periods when I have had people grind me.

Biagi: Meaning what?

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Taylor: Meaning complain about what I did. I haven't necessarily had them say I should do all this much differently. Somehow I've gotten away with a lot of stuff, you know, but they just get mad at me. We've had two people who particularly just really tried to make me quit. But one news director said, "It would break CBS to fire you because the severance would be too much." [Laughter.]

But there were a couple, and they were trying to make me quit because they were mad at me. I always figured in these two cases that they didn't like their mother and I reminded them of their mothers. [Laughter.] It had to be, because it was such a personality, such a mean thing that happened. There was one case I went to the union. They didn't do anything, but it was like I hated to go to work every day. Then it got worse. The second guy was much worse. That was in the eighties. He was terrible. He really did things to try to break me, to try to make me sick. For instance, I'd be assigned and he'd assign me to go to Lausanne [Switzerland]. I did go to Lausanne with the Olympic Committee in '84 when the Soviets were going to pull out and they were trying to convince them not to. Or he sent me to Washington when the F.B.I. was doing a lot of terrorist exercises and so forth. But before I would ever go on a major trip like that, the day before, he would have to send me out of town to Sacramento or do something that would keep me away. Then when I'd get back, he'd have to chew me out for half the night or something, something that would just wear me down. Really try to keep me sick.

Biagi: Keep you on edge.

Taylor: Keep me sick, keep me psychologically unbalanced. When I had to go to Lausanne, everybody else who was going got a chance to get ready to go when the plane took off at seven. I had to do a live shot on the six o'clock. You know, things like that. His worst thing was that we had the thousandth "Newsmakers" in 1984 on the Sunday I was to be back from Lausanne. He tried to arrange that I couldn't get back so I would miss that program. He told me when I was wanting to get back to that program, "You're not going to get back for that program and don't even think you are." Just really terrible. This is brutality. This is real psychological brutality.

Biagi: What kind of protections does a broadcast reporter have?

Taylor: I don't know. I think I could have probably found something. The other people were my protection, because everybody, in both cases, saw this as real. In the first case, the guy was an executive producer who had really ground me. In each case it was because I had stood up to them, in only one case maybe, but they were the kind of people that told you what to do and no back talk, and particularly if you were a woman.

Biagi: You think that's a factor.

Taylor: That definitely was. You talk about sexual harassment, there are ways of doing it that have nothing to do with sex, but with the sex you are, because that was treating a woman who would stand up to you, showing her she can't do that to you. And that's what it plainly was. In both cases there was no way I was not supported by what I did.

In the one case of the guy who was the executive producer, I had been sent out by him. He was brand-new at the place and he had come from Chicago. I was sent out by him to do a live shot about a shooting the day before when some shotgun pellets had landed close to a little child on the East Side. Well, now, that's not a story. It happened the day before. It hadn't hit anybody. On the East Side they're killing each other every other minute, so if you only have some shotgun pellets landing close to somebody—and he wanted me to do a live shot! The sheriff's deputy was

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saying, "What are you doing, Ruth? This is ridiculous! This is no story." It was a two-liner on city news the day before. I said, "I know it isn't. There's no story here." "Go find the people whose child was close to where the pellets landed." Well, I went to find the people and they all speak Spanish, they were all in the housing project. They didn't think anything about it. I tell the guy, "There's no live shot. I can't do a live shot. It would be stupid to do a live shot. Everybody would say, 'What are you doing a live shot for?'" For one thing, you've got violence down there all the time of a major sort.

When I got back, he was so furious that I refused to do a live shot. There was no story to do a live shot. He took me into the news director's room, closed the door, locked the door, and said, "You will understand that a news program is a dictatorship." And ever after he did treat me with complete—well, whatever I did was wrong. As a matter of fact, I remember him saying about one story I did, "Who knows those people?" He was just tearing me down again. The general manager called up and said, "Hey, Ruth, that was a really great story."

Well, the interesting thing was the night this guy was leaving, I was working late on one of the programs, "Newsmakers" or a religious show I did. I was in the bureau in my office about eight o'clock and this executive producer was leaving. I can't remember if he was transferred, fired, whatever. But they were having a little party for him out there, but there were no reporters at this party. The executive producer—I guess that's what she was at that point, one of the top management people, came back and said, "Ruth, there are no reporters out there and Dick's leaving." I said, "Okay." I just walked out and I stood in the back as people made little speeches and so forth. Then I walked back into my office.

In a little while, here comes this guy, Dick Goldberg, his name was, crying, and he came in and begged my forgiveness for the way he had treated me and he'd come to learn this and this and so forth about me and so on, and would I forgive him, that he had respect for me and he wanted me to know, and all this sort of stuff. I'm pinching myself. "Ruth, you're not alive. You're not here. This isn't happening. It can't happen. This guy has been killing you for all these months." But, no, he cried and begged my forgiveness, and I am not sure. I just managed to forget him. [Laughter.]

Biagi: With that, we can stop. [Laughter.]

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